ElfQuest is a fabulous comic, features so many story aspects I see people asking for on this site. Women of colour? Check. Men looking after the kids while the women go fights? That’s covered. Healthy poly relationships? Don’t get me started on how wonderful Tyldak-Dewshine-Scouter is. Elves with PTSD, mental disorders, adoption, racism, parent-child relationships, and queer people who don’t exist just to be a joke.
That’s right. ElfQuest has queer characters. And it’s all available online to read, for free.
Wendy Pini drew this amazing sketch of Skywise and Cutter for the silent auction to benefit the LGBTQIA…-friendly geek convention Bent-Con. She said that Elfquest is really the love story of these two soul brothers.
Happy Women’s History Month! All through March, we’ll be celebrating women who changed free expression in comics. Check back here every
weekday for biographical snippets on female creators who have pushed the
boundaries of the format and/or seen their work challenged or banned.
Wendy Pini discovered comic books as a teenager in the 1960s, devouring them alongside science fiction and fantasy novels. Pini was undeterred by the fact that, as a woman, she wasn’t necessarily the target market for the comics and books she read. She soon began drawing her own illustrations, drawing inspiration from the fantasy and science fiction she read (she also drew the ire of at least one high school art teacher who tried to discourage Wendy’s fascination with the fantastic). Pini also embraced fandom, becoming a fixture at fantasy and sci-fi conventions, where she was well-known for intricate cosplay.
During the early 1970s, the largely self-taught Pini illustrated covers for DC and Mavel as well as science fiction and fantasy magazines such as Galaxy, Galileo, and Worlds of If. In 1978, Pini, alongside her husband Richard, launched what has become one of the longest-running independent comics series: Elfquest. In Elfquest, Pini created a diverse cast of characters and frequently addressed contemporary social issues through her stories and illustrations. Pini’s artwork in Elfquest is inspired in part by Japanese manga and looked nothing like the work that dominated comics at the time the series launched. Her characters were more androgynous, and the artwork was notably feminine and sensual. When Elfquest debuted in Fantasy Quarterly #1, it became an instant hit especially among female comics fans. Now in its 37th year, the series has a loyal and broad fanbase and is considered by many a touchstone of independent comics.
Elfquest often depicts issues and events that aren’t commonly subjects of the comics medium. An issue in the Elfquest: New Blood series, published in the early 1990s, included panels that focused on childbirth. The imagery included partial nudity, but the event was tastefully illustrated and conveyed as life-affirming. Unfortunately, someone in West Virginia didn’t agree. In 1999, a social worker gave a neighborhood boy a copy of the comic, and the boy’s grandfather contacted authorities after a verbal confrontation with the social worker. Dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and arrested for distributing obscene materials to a minor, the social worker contacted CBLDF for assistance. The comic came nowhere near failing the Miller test for obscenity, so CBLDF legal counsel Burton Joseph was able to get the charges dismissed.
I will never understand how people don’t talk more about ElfQuest. Feral elves, wolf bonds, adventuring, POC characters, diverse, loving relationships of EVERY kind (poly, het, homosexual, entirely fluid and completely undefined) AND WHAT, THE ENTIRE SERIES IS ONLINE FOR FREE?!
This is one of the longest independent comics running to date, since 1978, and tumblr should be on FIRE with it. Please, PLEASE take a peek! Start at the Original Quest!
Elfquest is a story about elves and Wavedancers are sea elves. Here Haru’s elf name is Foam and his soul name is Haruka and Rin’s elf name is Sharktooth and soul name is Rin. Soul name protects the elf’s inner-most self and is revealed when two elves go through Recognition. Recognition happens, when two elves having exceptionally compatible qualities for reproduction meet (they may have met before) and then they experience a sudden and immediate compulsion to mate. This often leads becoming lifemates. While Recognizing the elf involuntarily surrenders his or her soul name to the other recognized elf. This is described by the phrase, “soul meets soul when eyes meet eyes.”
When Wendy and Richard Pini released the first issue of Elfquest in 1978, the landscape of the comic industry was wildly different. The “direct market” model of retailing was still in its infancy, with a loose network of regional companies distributing titles to comic shops around the country, and there was a sharp divide (in both content and style) between the mainstream superhero titles of Marvel and DC, and the adult-themed “comix” from underground publishers. Star Wars was a pop culture sensation, and the public was hungry for more adventure, seeking out all manner of sci-fi and fantasy in theaters and bookstores.
It was the perfect moment for Elfquest to appear, and almost immediately, the Pinis had a best-selling comic on their hands. Within a few years, they sparked a second revolution, collecting Elfquest in a series of full-color paperbacks that pioneered the influx of comics into mainstream bookstores, and effectively laid the groundwork for the graphic novel market.
Now, 36 years later, they’re still working on their signature creations, and have partnered with Dark Horse to publish a new series, Elfquest: The Final Quest, as well as new collections of the original series and a special “Gallery Edition,” shot from the original artwork. ComicsAlliance got the chance to catch up with them at the Dark Horse booth at San Diego Comic-Con, and discuss how Elfquest has impacted the world of comics, both creatively and business-wise.
He’s number two in the series. Eventually I’ll draw all the elves with their “loves”. (Cutter and Leetah have each other, obviously, but Skywise’s heart has always belonged to stars rather than people.)